Opening in Leeds later this month, H&M offshoot Cos has inspired a global following for its signature modern minimalism. Stephanie Smith finds out more from designers Karin Gustafsson and Martin Andersson.
There is a simplicity about Cos that instantly calms and inspires confidence. Take the name: Cos stands for Collection of Style. It is what it is. Serious fashion, understated, timeless yet undeniably of the moment, with sleek modern minimalism at its heart.
Cos is the go-to fashion brand for those who want considered design that works with their whole life. It’s been described as a lifestyle rather than just a fashion store.
It was created by its Swedish parent company the H&M Group, which saw a gap in the market for high end design at an affordable price. The first store opened on Regent Street in 2007.
“Our philosophy has remained the same,” says creative director Karin Gustafsson. “We have always aimed to offer an inspiring collection comprising wardrobe staples alongside re-invented classics that are timeless and modern.”
Rather than designing for a specific person, the Cos design teams think of a group of friends who share the same likes and aesthetics, but with their own individual tastes and takes on fashion.
“What they share is their sense of confidence, personality and appreciation of style,” says Karin.
“They all have busy lifestyles and are interested in current issues – cultural as well as financial, political, and of course, fashion. They also appreciate exceptional quality and value in every element of their lives.”
Head of menswear design Martin Andersson adds: “We recognise that everyone is different and the wonderful thing about the diversity of fashion is that both women and men have the option to dress to appease their individual style and preference.”
Cos opens its first Yorkshire store on October 20 in Leeds within the new Victoria Gate shopping centre. Its other UK outlets are in London, Manchester Selfridges, Glasgow, Brighton, Birmingham, Kingston and Richmond-upon-Thames, and it is stocked across the world, in 33 countries including the US, Poland, the United Arab Emirates, France and Turkey.
Karin says: “Location is super important to us as we want to be represented and positioned where we can best serve our customers.”
There will be no fixed rooms within the new Leeds store, instead a metal rail defining individual rooms within the larger space, framing the collection and guiding the customer through the store. “The store environment is designed to create a welcoming sense of calm, a place where you want to spend time,” Karin adds.
Cos aims to be truly international in its appeal. Martin says: “I would say the Cos customer has a metropolitan international mindset and is not defined by their location. Visiting other countries for our store openings and research trips helps us to draw inspiration from various sources, enabling us to create internationally relevant collections.”
This autumn Cos will be collaborating with the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York as sponsor of a major retrospective of American painter Agnes Martin (1912-2004). “We see collaborations as an opportunity to provide an insight into the people that inspire us, reaching a new audience and bridging the relationship between art and design and fashion,” Karin says.
The pictures here give a glimpse of what we can expect when Cos opens later this month. “Each season we look for new inspirations for our collections from the creative worlds of art, design, architecture and music, amongst others,” adds Martin.
“This season a key inspiration was ‘everyday decadence’, by looking at functionality in new interesting ways. The intense colours found in the backdrop of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings containing rich, dark navy, intense blue, ochre, burgundy and forest green inspired the direction of the colour palette for the season.”
Karin adds: “One of my key pieces for the season is our red ochre raw-seam coat in wool. This piece is a modern take on a men’s tailored coat and has functional patch pockets.”
Outerwear is strong for autumn in menswear too, says Martin. “Both the flocked wool irregular-check coat in brown/stone and the textured wool soft shoulder coat in navy melange are favourites of mine.”
Since launching nearly 10 years ago, Cos has inevitably evolved, but its essence has remained unchanged. “Timeless, modern, tactile and functional design. We hope and believe that everything we do incorporates these factors from our collections to our store environments and events. Staying strong to our aesthetic is key in this changeable industry and is something we are renowned for. We prefer to focus on style over trends.”
Cos opens at Victoria Gate in Leeds on October 20. It is also available on www.cosstores.com.